So yesterday, while dragging my groceries down the street, I overheard an older American couple arguing about which way they should go to find their hotel. They were waving around one of those free maps from Printemps, and since they were blocking the sidewalk and my ice cream was melting, I decided to help them.
For anyone who doesn't know, free maps are pretty much OK if you want a general idea of where big things are (monuments, the river, etc), but are useless if you are looking for a lot of the less-important streets, etc. If you've never been here before, they are really a huge waste of your time.
This couple was jet-lagged, had been hauling luggage around in circles, had stopped for a couple of glasses of wine, then proceeded to have a meltdown on the sidewalk. I asked them where they wanted to go, assured them that the street they wanted was not on their map but was only a couple of blocks away and easy to find. Maybe it was the circumstances, but they didn't believe me until I pulled out my ever-present map book and showed them.
After some more arguing and re-assurance, I made sure they were headed the right way, then went home to eat ice cream for dinner.
Folks - especially first-time visitors to Paris - don't let this happen to you. Get yourselves a decent map and avoid headaches and meltdowns. If you will be planning to do a lot of walking, it will save you lots of time and energy - and you'll have a whole lot more of that left over for drinking wine or eating unmelted ice cream...
This is the book I use, the one I wish I owned stock in, and the one most people find the easiest to use. You can order the current edition online from www.massin.fr if you want to study up before your trip, or they are available in most newstands in Paris for 5 to 8 EU. Massin.fr has a free shipping code, maybe someone knows the newest one?
Paris Pratique, par Arrondissement - L'Indispensable
(there are other similar books available, but I find they lack a lot of information or are not laid out as conveniently as L'Indispensable)
There is a companion bus booklet, which is great for anyone who will be spending lots of time on the bus. Each bus line is listed on a 2-page spread, including a city map showing the route through different arrondissements, a more detailed street map as well as a list of all the stops in order as they occur going in each direction.
Le Bus Parisien, Repertoire des 109 lignes - L'Indispensable
Avoid meltdowns, and help me avoid having to eat melted ice cream for dinner!